It was one of the finest days in Waringstown Cricket Club’s long and cherished history.
Crowned Irish Cup winners for the fourth time, and NCU Premier League champions 2015, both on the same day.
News of North Down’s defeat to Instonians filtered through to The Lawn at the halfway stage of Waringstown’s Irish Cup final against Merrion, and what had been a virtual mathematical certainty was rubberstamped. Waringstown were Premier League champions again.
But this day was really all about the Irish Cup, and Waringstown produced one of their finest all-round performances in recent years to not only beat the competition favourites, but beat them by the comfortable margin of 107 runs.
Greg Thompson, with a top score of 78 from 113 balls, and South African professional JP de Villiers, were the star performers, but just about everyone made a sterling contribution on the day.
Lee Nelson, the captain, won a crucial toss and batted first on a fine pitch. James McCollum in particular started beautifully, hitting three boundaries in his 18 from 23 balls but after he and James Hall added 43 in good time, Merrion struck back quickly.
Hall was caught at point aiming to drive one that wasn’t quite full enough and then next ball Dom Joyce bowled McCollum with a beauty that swung away and hit his off-stump. It got worse before it got better as Ireland bowler Tyrone Kane had Adam Dennison caught at second slip as the youngster pushed at one outside off-stump.
From 43 for nought, Waringstown were 51 for three and in trouble, but Thompson and Nelson produced one of the most important partnerships in Waringstown’s recent history.
Thompson was particularly positive, dancing down the pitch to hit over the top from the start of his innings and the pair added 103 for the fourth wicket to take Waringstown past 150.
Nelson made 46 from 56 balls before he was bowled by a low full toss and then came one of the game’s biggest moments, de Villiers dropped at deep mid-wicket by Dave Langford-Smith before he had scored.
It was the costliest of misses, de Villiers going on to make 31 from just 22 balls, including three sixes and a four, he and Thompson adding 51 in just seven overs.
Merrion fought back again, de Villiers eventually bowled by Joyce and Thompson falling lbw to the same bowler after hitting eight fours and a six.
At 210 for six, Waringstown were wobbling but David Dawson, who struck two sixes in his 19, and Kyle McCallan, who made an unbeaten 30 from just 27 balls, gave them late-innings impetus along with wicketkeeper Jonathan Bushe.
A final total of 276 for six was an excellent one, particularly with the pressure of a cup final run chase looming for Merrion.
Waringstown’s opening attack then delivered and how, Eaglestone bowling mostly without luck and de Villiers at the other end dismissing Kane in his second over, and following up with having Robin Smith taken at slip and Joyce lbw second ball.
Eaglestone got the outside edge of Rory Allwright’s bat and then Gary Kidd, with just his second ball, had David Rhoda stumped.
With John Anderson, Merrion’s star batsman, nursing a broken finger and only able to bat in an emergency, the Dubliners were 35 for five and in deep trouble. But they launched an admirable fightback, Langford-Smith crashing nine fours and two sixes in his 70 from just 65 balls.
He and Michael Lewis (52 no) added 93 in 16 overs and at 128 for five the game was right back in the melting pot. But Nelson brought de Villiers (4-24) back into the attack and the fast bowler almost immediately uprooted Langford-Smith’s stumps with a full delivery.
From there Merrion collapsed, losing their last four wickets for just 13 runs as McCallan took three for 30 and they were all out for 169 in the 36th over.
It was a memorable day as Waringstown closed to within one victory of the all-time record of Irish Cup successes held by North County.